Identity Through a Yiddish Lens

I'm reading this graphic novel, entitled "Yiddishkeit." It is a wonderful tale about Yiddish vernacular and the Jewish-American postwar experience. There is such a terribly undertold narrative behind Yiddish. 

Seems like all over the world identity politics exist merely for the rude thrills of identity politics. Identity is decoupled from need. Many upper middle class (and wealthier), college-educated black people in America have never ever been stopped by the police. They have never been arrested. They have never been mistreated or subjects of brutality by the police. And even if you might agree with me that problems with U.S. policing are just as much about class as they are about race (and of course class can be part of identity), the reality is identity is volatile when people become activists divorced from need. Saudi Arabia talking sympathetically about the Palestinians is hopefully nothing more than a calculated jab in the eye of Israel. No one really believe believes the Sheikhs in the Gulf give a flying *blank* about the Palestinians. And that is a good thing. Its good to be cynical if that means you are honest. Where the Arab world went wrong was with all of this phony-baloney postwar Pan-Arabist stuff. That was false. The Middle East is tribal as ever. And the conceit of all these Pan-Arabists, like the current Assad's daddy Hafez, who sought to rule everyone together under these supra-tribal and supra-factional barriers was the fragile, coiled spring that once tinkered with à la the Arab Spring lead directly to the grim sectarian bloodbath across the Fertile Crescent today, the butcher's bill of which the whole world will be paying for for many years to come. 

And contemporary identity politics is tedious because the identities being politicked are dishonest ones, they can too easily be changed. Today we can instantly join digital ranks and summarily denounce Cecil Rhodes. There is a mismatch of course because Cecil Rhodes had way fewer options than we do today. To find "success," however you define it, in his world, one had different needs. So if we judge Cecil Rhodes, shouldn't we simply begin our interrogation considering he very well may have needed to imagine and choose and decide within such and such constraints, for he lived in such and such a time? Is that not a practical question? There are universal virtues, maybe, but surely identity changes over time. 

You can't help but read Yiddishkeit and get a notion that everything about Yiddish was in a word practical

Morever, Yiddish was the outgrowth of a Jewish culture that didn't kid itself.

Correct me if I'm wrong but Yiddish thrived under a climate of state suppression of the Jewish identity and people. Yes Poland has the double distinction of being royally screwed over by both Hitler and Stalin, but the Poles have a streak of anti-semitism that stands out irrespective of those two facts. It was in places like Poland where Yiddish thrived. It was a creole of sorts coded and subterranean. But it had to be: people needed Yiddish to feel a sense of control and cultural distinction, and of course it served also as a subtle form of dissent.

But then the state of Israel came about and Yiddish basically collapsed. No longer did people need camouflage, and as the state of Israel linked Jews directly to the land Hebrew linked them all the way back to the Jewish Patriarchs. Maybe we don't like to think of it this way, but maybe Yiddish had to be let go. 

The example of Yiddish suggests that identity might not be so much a list of demands, but rather better thought of as a logistical plan. 

And plans change.